- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 9, 2001

The trouble with Canada geese even if they're those supposedly dumb, half-domesticated residents that we see along roadside fields and in small lakes everywhere throughout the year is that the moment they hear a couple of pellets whistle past their feathers, they instantly turn into sly, wild Northerners. After that, they no way resemble the birds we've been shooing from local boat launching ramps for more than a decade whenever we go fishing.As the hunting season for the Canadas, who were born and raised in these parts, opened in Maryland and Virginia last weekend. It didn't take the well-fed critters long to behave like their cousins on Quebec's Ungava Peninsula the home range of Atlantic Flyway geese that migrate south to Maryland and eastern Virginia in late October and all through November.
To keep from confusing the two distinctly separate groups of birds the year-round locals and the autumnal visitors wildlife officials all along the East Coast have implemented hunting seasons for the U.S.-born geese that of late have become more of a nuisance than pleasure. Ask any sod farmer or golf course manager, even owners of homes that sit along local waterways. A group of 12-pound fowl can foul grounds and shallow water ponds to such an extent that the Land of Pleasant Living (Maryland's tourism hook phrase) can quickly become the Land of Smelly Slipping.
So when the resident goose hunt begins to clear the state of a goodly number of the feathered noise makers, how come you can't get an invitation to bag some of these erstwhile northern intruders that once were thought of as lovely, albeit unintended, additions to estate homes and farm lands from Pennsylvania to North Carolina?
One of my waterfront property-owning neighbors, practically a walking distance from my house, has a couple dozen resident geese fertilizing his lawn every day and despite exclamations about hating "those damned birds," you'd think he'd let us slip down there in the mornings to help him out? No way. Even though the law says you can take five resident geese per day, the Natural Resources people in Annapolis might as well make it 20 or 30 per day, because most hunters can't find a place where they can bag a couple of the birds anyway.
OK, so I finally finagled an invite to a grassy field owned by a businessman in southern Prince George's County, but the shooting should have been a lot better.
For starters, after the first shots rang out on the opening day of the resident goose season, the big birds immediately reverted to a wild stage that Mother Nature wanted them to be in the day they crawled from their egg shells. Seriously, there was one loud report from a 12-gauge shotgun in the distance somewhere down along another farm's cornfield where we had seen a hundred geese waddling along the edges in the past, and now 15 geese circled near us, suspiciously eyeing the ground. As they finally descended, shots rang out from our side, and four birds stayed behind.
It was hardly the type of hunt we'd hoped for. Only three of the five shooters connected on "meat," as the boys referred to the soon-to-be roasted geese.
That was it. If any geese came near the property we waited on, they were far up in the sky, necks craned, eyes carefully scanning any movement or odd-looking object below. Yeah, these Canadas weren't "dumb" residents any longer. In fact, they turned us into dummies as soon as the initial shots echoed through a stand of nearby trees.
With the Maryland resident goose hunt continuing through Saturday mostly in the parts of the state that lie east of I-95 (and until Sept. 25 in western and northern parts of the state), and Virginia's open through Sept. 25 statewide, there's still time to put the delectable fowl into the freezer.
Wouldst that it again were the mid-1990s, when we went fishing for smallmouth bass on the upper Potomac during a resident goose hunt. We brought shotguns along, and before ever wetting a line we bagged our limit of resident geese while hiding in the bushes of a mid-river island, a few decoys bobbing in the Potomac in plain view. Back then, the webfooted birds wouldn't stay away from us, and the shooting was easy. Later, we went fishing and had a fine time with the bass.
It was a day to remember.
Today I will knock on the door of yet another neighbor and check to see if the geese have driven him to the point of saying, "Yes, you can hunt."


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